Geology for Global Development

Geology for Global Development

Launch of Foresight Report: Reducing the Risk of Future Disasters.

Today the UK government released their highly anticipated foresight report into “Reducing the Risk of Future Disasters”. This report, led by the UK government’s chief scientific advisor, Sir John Beddington, looks at disasters in developing countries that have resulted from natural hazards.

The aim has been ‘to provide advice to decision makers on how science can inform the difficult choices and priorities for investing in disaster risk reduction, so that the diverse impacts of future disasters can be effectively reduced.’

The GfGD team look forward to reading through the report and discussing it’s findings. We will be hosting our first twitter discussion about the report on Saturday 1st December, at 3pm. Please join us to feed in your initial thoughts about the report. You can find us on @Geo_Dev, using the hashtag #Foresight.

We look forward to hearing from you!


China: The Future Looks Bright…

China, one of the largest and most populated countries on Earth, is emerging as an economic superpower. More and more frequently, emerging economies are choosing to peg their currency to the Yuan, rather than the US dollar. Their success is built on a strong research and development sector. Having just come under new leadership, China is entering an exciting decade.

On a recent trip to Xuzhou city, Jiangsu province, I was able to look around the University of Mining and Technology . The campus is huge and a large proportion of it is dedicated to geoscience.  The newly renovated laboratories were filled with every kind of analytical facility, but strangely devoid of geoscientists… the University has been expanded to accommodate future growth. China is preparing to become an academic and economic powerhouse – racing out ahead of the pack in scientific research.

The University of Mining and Technology

While the rest of the world is allowing science funding to stagnate, China increased funding by 50% between 2010 and 2011identifying Earth Science as a key target area. China has always invested heavily in geoscience for two reasons; they have a thriving extraction industry and they are threatened by a number of geological hazards. There are regular deadly earthquakes, landslides and water resource issues.

As well as securing it’s academic future through investment in research, China is acquiring resources world wide, most notably in Africa, to fuel the rapid growth in buildings and infrastructure. Many of the outcrops we attempted to visit during our field campaign had been covered up with new towns since the previous field season! China’s interest in Africa’s natural assets may have a knock-on effect, bringing infrastructure and resources into parts of Africa.

The recent leadership shake-up in will have a big impact on the direction of China’s growth and development over the following decade. Xi Jinping, who did a degree in chemical engineering, was recently announced as leader of the ruling party. He will now lead a country of 1.3 billion people alongside the six other men on the party’s standing committee. It is unlikely that Xi Jinping will make any changes to his predecessors policies until he has spent some time in power.

Mr Xi will face some serious challenges during his leadership: moving away from reliance on coal power, managing natural hazards, and narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor. Although urban China is now surfing alongside the EU and the US, parts of rural China have been drowned by the wave of recent development. Many people in China have not seen the benefits of China’s growth and are still living in poverty.

This elderly man is harvesting peanuts by hand in rural China.


High-rise modern buildings make up the famous Shanghai skyline. The streets in Shanghai are lined with designer outlets and expensive restaurants

We urge Xi Jinping to use his powerful position to take action on climate change, to drive development throughout China and to continue heavily funding geoscience and hazards research.

Friday Photo (58): Active Geology – Striations on a Fault Surface, Greece


An active fault surface in Greece – one of the most seismically active places on Earth. The striations on the surface can be used to measure the direction of movement on the fault. The exposed surface can be dated at various heights (using dating systems such as Beryllium-10) to infer the rate of slip.

(c) Geology for Global Development

GfGD News: Student Forum with the Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction

The ‘Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction’ (IRDR), headed up by Professor Peter Sammonds, is based at University College London (UCL). UCL’s GfGD University group hosted a student forum at the end of October in collaboration with the IRDR. This was a chance for students to engage with people from academic backgrounds and NGOs to share ideas on student placements in the development sector and receive feedback and advice.

We listened to a series of short talks given by representatives of GfGD, Engineers without borders and ‘Thinking Development’ (an academic – NGO partnership working to build a high capacity primary school in Haiti).

The talks inspired considerable discussion and the GfGD representatives had a fantastic opportunity to learn about the best way to facilitate student involvement in development projects. Here, we summarise some of the key considerations that GfGD will be taking very seriously as we move towards organising both UK-based and international student placements in the future:

  • A field project is more likely to be a success if it incorporates local expertise,
  • It is crucial to clearly communicate what you are doing and why to the affected community,
  • It is advisable to work within an existing project, run by an organisation with a long-term presence in an area.
  • Projects should be driven by and demanded by the local community,
  • If the current partners have to withdraw before the project is complete, the project should be flexible and well-documented enough that it can be completed by another organisation.
  • Information, even about failed projects, should be reported in an accessible format so that others can learn from it.

We are very grateful to Peter Sammonds for his support, Joel Gill, Anna Mason and Claudia Ramirez for their excellent talks, and to all attendees for their thoughtful contributions.